BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:

THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE

(A Background and March 2001 Issue in Brief)

© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia

Research Study 3, 2001

Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240

AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL


I.  INTRODUCTION

II.  CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS

1. The Conflict in Macedonia, Southern Serbia and the Post-Conflict Situation in Kosovo
2. Post-Conflict Rehabilitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

III.  THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES

1. Bulgaria
2. Croatia

3. FRY

IV.  THE BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL RELATION IN THE BALKANS

1. Bilateral Relations
2. Multilateral Relations: Trilateral Cooperation among Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey

V.  THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND IN THE REGION

1. Turkey
2. Bulgaria

VI.  THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

1. The United States
2. NATO

3. EU

4. Russia

VII.  THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION: CONCLUSIONS


I.  INTRODUCTION

 

The tense post-conflict situation in Kosovo and the conflict in Southern Serbia escalated in March and has deepened the extent of Albanian dissent in the region covering the northern and northwestern regions of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo  and in Macedonia have initiated a new and well-planned separatist struggle inside Macedonia and have formed a new organization – the Army of National Liberation (ANL) – as an instrument to do so. Pictures of well-armed uniformed Albanian militants from Southern Serbia and Macedonia, resembling the KLA forces during the NATO strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999, have been the cause of some disappointment among the international community. The international community has been determined to see an end to the Albanian struggle once the Albanian people have been given the chance to reconstruct Kosovo on a democratic basis, especially after the power in Belgrade has been turned over to a democratic government.  It has become evident for the people around Europe and the world that the goal of the Albanian “freedom fighters” during NATO's anti-Milosevic air campaign was not the creation of a democratic society, but rather the secession of territories with Albanian populations and the merging of these into one entity.  The recent wave of violent provocations aims at the destabilization of Macedonia, a key state within the regional security which might have expected a certain degree of rapport with Albanians after its courageous support for more than 400'000 Albanian refugees on Macedonian territory in 1999. However, this bulletin has and has continued to stress the complex nature of the Albanian and the Serbian questions, and the fundamental need of balance and tolerance, since the dissolution of the federal Yugoslav state at the beginning of the 1990s. It would be simplistic to portray the Albanians as solely responsible for regional unrest, and we have avoided any misrepresentation of the Serbs as the “rogue” ethnicity of Southeastern Europe in 1999. The crucial issues are those of democracy and state-building as usefully or improperly applied social tools for placing the different Balkan peoples on the track of modernization in all spheres of life and of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

 

Despite the disturbing developments in a country that has often named itself the “oasis of stability” and an “example of a multi-ethnic model” during the past decade, the reaction to the new conflict in Southeastern Europe by the rest of the Balkan states shows adequacy and maturity in deterring further regional destabilization as well as full support to the Macedonian government. The reaction of the EU and NATO, though initially slow, has been politically targeted in an effective way and has already resulted in powerful pressure on extremists and militants in Macedonia, Kosovo and Southern Serbia. The official Russian comparisons of Macedonia with Chechnya are new examples of the strenuous efforts of Moscow to exploit international political developments for domestic purposes – moves that are far removed from true great-power behavior in a critical situation.

 

II.  CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS

 

1. The Conflict in Macedonia, Southern Serbia and the Post-Conflict Situation in Kosovo

 

The Albanian extremists of the so-called Army for National Liberation (ANL) occupied  the village of Tanusevci at the beginning of March, killing Macedonian soldiers and police officers. A permeable border with Kosovo allowed Kosovar Albanians to deploy forces and armaments and stage provocations. The Macedonian government reacted in a resolute manner by reinforcing its police and army personnel in the mountainous area. After being defeated in Tanusevci, the ANL turned its attention to the mostly Albanian populated town of Tetovo. The tactics of involving civilians in the conflict were clearly aimed at polarizing the internal social relations and inciting hatred of Macedonians against each other on ethnic grounds. After introducing regular armed forces with tanks and armored combat vehicles (ACVs) to the Tetovo area, and pressing further with infantry forces, the Macedonian army achieved a new victory. The flexible and highly mobile Albanian forces managed to go into hiding for the time being, and have presumably taken up new positions. There is a strong possibility that the military operations may escalate into guerrilla warfare and urban terrorism. The success of the Macedonian armed forces was largely due to the improved KFOR performance on the border between Kosovo and Macedonia, the closure of the outlets for the ANL to Southern Serbia by the Serb armed forces and the military-technical help delivered to Skopje from Bulgaria, Greece and elsewhere.

 

The present violent inter-ethnic relations are not new developments in Macedonia. Albanians boycotted the referendum for independence and the census in 1991; the Albanian parliamentary fraction boycotted the adoption of the new constitution in 1991; in 1992, the Albanians organized an illegal referendum, in which 90 per cent of them supported independence from the Macedonian state; in 1994, Albanian representatives declared an autonomous "Republic Illiryda" in Western Macedonia. In November 1993, the police arrested a group of Albanians, including a deputy defense minister, and accused them of attempting to form a paramilitary force. Logically, the next steps would have been the use of this force to support a secession of Illiryda and its unification with an independent Kosovo and Albania.

 

The trigger that activated the Albanian militancy were developments that made plans for a united and ethnically pure fatherland of the Albanians redundant: the switch of power to a democratically elected government in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and Serbia; the conclusion of a bilateral treaty between the FRY and Macedonia, formally settling the disputed border delimitation issue and securing stable inter-state borders of the two countries, whose destabilization would serve the interests of the Albanian separatists; and the steps taken by NATO and KFOR to reduce the buffer zone along the border between Kosovo and Serbia and allowing Yugoslav army to expel the Albanian guerrillas from the Army for the Liberation of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (ALPBM). The pressure applied to the ALPBM and the Kosovo political leaders by NATO and the EU led to the cease-fire agreement in southern Serbia, ending months of clashes with Yugoslav forces.

 

The Albanian militants are in all likelihood well prepared against efforts to stem the further destabilization of Kosovo and Southern Serbia. The recent terrorist activity in Macedonia has been aimed at a further deterioration of inter-ethnic relations between Macedonian citizens of Slavic and non-Slavic origin – Albanians, Turks, and others. The strategy of the Albanian extremists has been to instigate a chain of events that will lead to a general destabilization of the regional security situation in a region encompassing more than one state. This strategy of violent attitude strongly resembles former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's  “ethnic cleansing” policy, aimed at destabilizing in a chain-reaction at least three neighboring states and tipping the security balance in the Balkans in favor of Belgrade. Considering Macedonia's current unemployment rate of 40 per cent, such an approach is not unlikely to succeed. 

 

However, the most that Albanian separatism can hope to achieve is street fighting in Skopje, Ohrid and other bigger Macedonian cities. The political arm representing the militants’ claims – the recently founded National Democratic Party (NDP), whose political objective is the ethnic and religious polarization of Albanian and non-Albanian Macedonian citizens – has had little effect both internally and internationally. In fact, the lack of political support for the Albanian extremist revolt in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and, in past weeks, in Macedonia, makes the extremists' strategy seem unlikely to succeed. The verbal declarations of Albanian political leaders in Pristina, Tirana and Skopje, condemning the violent methods of the ANL, have for practical purposes isolated the ANL and the NDP and their political causes.

 

The political pressure on the ANL extremists increased after the Macedonian parliament, government and president unanimously rejected efforts to break up the young state. The challenge for the armed forces of Macedonia was to prove they are a reliable institution of the state, which is planning to apply for NATO membership. The readiness to utilize artillery and tanks donated by Bulgaria a year ago proved to be the turning point in the military fight against the Albanian extremists.

 

The international pressure on the Albanian extremists began immediately after their provocation in Tanusevci: the Macedonian state leadership had asked Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and the Bulgarian government for military support in coping with the dangerous situation. During a two-day visit to Skopje on 9-10 March, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov pledged to, and on the next day delivered, military supplies worth DM16 million (US$7.3 million). After receiving the full and unanimous support of the Bulgarian government, president and parliament, the Macedonian leadership appealed to the UN Security Council to deal urgently with the increasing threat. Subsequently, Greece promised to extend its military-technical aid to Skopje as well. Soon after, intensive personal and telephone communications were initiated by the prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers of the Process for Cooperation and Security in Southeastern Europe, comprising all states from the region. The unanimous political condemnation of the Albanian terrorism in Macedonia by the leaders of the Balkan states and the full support for the Macedonian government and official institutions proved to be a major test of the rising maturity of the region-building efforts in the Balkans in the area of security. Furthermore, the Balkan leaders, especially the Bulgarian ones, did not hesitate to label the organized and planned terrorist activities as a mixture of gangsterism, drug-trafficking scheming and a dose of Albanian nationalism and irredentism. The visit of the US FBI director to Sofia during the Macedonian crisis brought additional evidence that drug dealers suffer huge losses in the stable and areas of Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia where the rule of law prevails.

 

Condemnation of the terrorist activity was the reaction of the EU, NATO, the UN Security Council, Russia and the US from the very start of the crisis. The US State Department condemned the extremists' actions  as seeking to undermine the stability in Macedonia, Kosovo and the region on 6 March. Earlier, US Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed the US commitment to the stability of the Balkans through NATO and KFOR. US troops from the KFOR contingent have shot and wounded two rebel fighters in Kosovo near the border with Macedonia. NATO and EU observers entered the buffer zone on 14 March, occupied with KFOR permission by Yugoslav forces without heavy weaponry. The observers began monitoring the cease-fire, as agreed with the ALPBM. EU Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana urged all ethnic Albanians to isolate the extremists in a statement he made on 6 March. On 19 March, Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim met in Brussels with both Solana and Lord George Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO. Lord Robertson urged NATO member countries to reinforce their troops in Kosovo to provide KFOR with more flexibility. On 27 March, both Solana and Lord Robertson visited Skopje and met with the Macedonian leaders, reaffirming their support for Macedonia and urging the rebel leaders to lay down their arms and start political life. Both the European Union and NATO are encouraging the Macedonian government to focus on political dialogue and address the grievances of the Albanian minority. Lord Robertson commended the Macedonian government for showing restraint and firmness in forcing the rebels back into Kosovo.

 

During the coming weeks, we can expect the Macedonian army to complete the expulsion of the armed rebels of the ANL. Escalation of Albanian terror by the militants in their ranks may be expected in the towns and cities of Macedonia. Bombings, ambushes, arson, and impeding normal economic activity in the country should be met by the Macedonian police and internal security forces.

 

The dangers of a prolonged internal instability in Macedonia are real, especially if the tensions start to resemble the Kosovo type of Serb-Albanian hatred and antagonism. The government and all other institutions in Macedonia, supported by the international community, especially the neighboring countries, EU and NATO, should call on all Albanian political leaders and parties in Tirana, Pristina and Skopje to pressure militant Albanian representatives to give up violent means of struggle for additional rights, unless they wish to be isolated and gain the ill-fame of Milosevic.

 

At the same time, Belgrade and Skopje should be called upon to refrain from using excessive military force in restoring order in southern Serbia and in northern and northwestern Macedonia. The thrust of the political efforts by both Belgrade and Skopje on the political and civil society level should be reconciliation, rapprochement, and an end to laying the political blame for all regional difficulties on the Albanian population exclusively. It is commendable that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is investigating the organizers of the terrorist activity in northern Macedonia for incitement of ethnic hatred. After fair and transparent trials, indicted criminals should serve their sentences. The most important part of the political activity that should follow the military stage of the crisis is the initiation of political negotiations with the ruling and the opposition Albanian ethnic political parties, but not with the ANL and the NDP. The appropriate forum for holding talks within a democratic country like Macedonia is the national parliament. Imaginative constitutional and legislative improvements to meet the legitimate concerns of the Albanians in Macedonia are obviously necessary, too. The vast majority of Albanians are peaceful people who are opposed to the violence that has erupted and who hope for equal rights and just treatment. At the same time the situation is ripe to bring to the minds of the Albanians that any separatist activity in Macedonia, FRY or Greece would be unacceptable and should be differentiated from the struggle for more ethnic group rights. Plans to re-adjust existing frontiers and to create a Greater Albania are unacceptable.

 

Regarding other external factors that have an influence on the internal developments in Macedonia, it is high time to engage in ambitious projects to build a modern infrastructure in the Balkans, to initiate economic projects within the Pact of Stability that will focus the interests of all ethnic groups, and to provide a different perspective of the common future of all people living together in the Balkans. A persistent policy of discouraging militant Albanians in the Balkans is expected of Tirana and would be encouraged by Albania's partners in the region.

 

2. Post-Conflict Rehabilitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

(1) The Croat National Assembly, led by the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) created a so-called interim Croat self-government in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 3 March. The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, responded by dismissing the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Ante Jelavic, from office. Petritsch dismissed and banned from public office three other Bosnian Croats. The Croat nationalists announced plans to break out of the post-war federation with Bosnia’s Muslims in a row over new election rules, believed to weaken the power of the Croats. The international community was given an ultimatum by Jelavic to change the rules within 15 days or face a Croat breakaway.

 

Bosnia’s political structures were set up in the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the long ethnic war and established a state that included a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation. One representative of each of the three communities is delegated to the presidency. The high representative has the authority to remove any official who obstructs the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords or violates the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The actions of Jelavic and his party were anti-constitutional. The reaction of the high representative was aimed at the extremists in the Croat ranks and not against the Croat people. The election of the new moderate government in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 22 February is an important step on the country’s long road to peace and reconciliation. For the first time in 10 years, the new government is composed of representatives of parties committed to building a healthy multi-ethnic society rather than perpetuating a bitter and divided past. The moderate Alliance for Peace coalition that leads the new government is expected to pass laws and strengthen the institutions, thus accelerating the peace process and taking the country closer to the European mainstream. (2) On 15 March the Pentagon confirmed plans to withdraw more than 1'000 troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina, reducing its military presence there by about a quarter. Apache helicopters and heavy armored units, considered to exceed the US and SFOR requirements in carrying out their mission, will also be withdrawn.

 

III.  THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES

 

1. Bulgaria

(1) The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense announced its readiness on 1 March to accelerate its reduction of armaments. According to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, Bulgaria may have 1'475 tanks. However, the government plans to lower the number of tanks to 790 by 2004. (2) Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov decided on 29 March to fix 17 June as the date for this year’s general elections. The major contenders for the 39th People’s Assembly (the parliament) are all pro-EU and pro-NATO parties.

 

2. Croatia

At the beginning of March a former Croatian general, Marco Norac, 33, and four others were accused of ordering and taking part in the killings of at least 24 Serbs in the central Croatian city of Gospic in October 1991. For the first time, the Croatia is trying members of its own armed forces for war crimes. Many atrocities were committed by Croats and Serbs during the 1991-1995 war of independence from Yugoslavia. In February nearly 100'000 people demonstrated in the city of Split against the investigation into General Norac’s wartime activities.

 

3. FRY

(1) An amnesty law brought pardon to about 30'000 people accused of anti-state crimes during the rule of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The law does not apply to the Kosovo Albanians charged with terrorism. (2) During investigations on 7 March of Rade Markovic, the chief of the state security service of the regime of Milosevic, the opposition leader Vuk Draskovic testified that he believed Milosevic had instigated an assassination attempt against him in October 1999. (3) On 27 March eight close associates of Milosevic and his wife were arrested in Belgrade. They face allegations of abuse of power and fraud. The authorities are, obviously, in search of evidence against Milosevic that would provide them with arguments to detain him for economic and political crimes.

 

 

IV.  THE BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL RELATION IN THE BALKANS

 

1. Bilateral Relations

a) Bulgaria-FRY. (1) On 8-9 March the speaker of the Yugoslav parliament, Dragoljub Micunovic, visited Sofia and held talks with Jordan Sokolov (his counterpart of the Bulgarian parliament), Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova. This was the first high-level visit of the democratic leadership in Yugoslavia and Serbia since the fall of the Milosevic regime. (2) Yugoslav Defense Minister Slobodan Krapovic visited Bulgaria on 12-13 March and met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Noev, and the Chief of General Staff of the armed forces, General Miho Mihov. The defense ministers discussed the regional security situation and the future of regional cooperation in the defense area.

 

b) Albania-Bulgaria. (1) On 12 March Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev visited Tirana and met with Albanian Defense Minister Ismail Lesi. His short visit aimed at seeking ways of peaceful solution to the issues in the region and to its stabilization. (2) On 29 March in Sofia representatives of the Ministries of the Interior of the two countries signed a re-admission agreement that will facilitate the visa regime between the two countries after Bulgaria joins the Schengen visa regime zone on 10 April.

 

c) FYROM-Bulgaria. (1) The Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov made a long-planned visit to Macedonia on 8-9 March, which coincided with the escalating tensions in the republic and the delivery from Sofia of military supplies and ammunitions for its armed forces . Kostov met with Macedonian officials as well as with the Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi. The unanimous position of the Bulgarian government, president and parliament was presented to all political leaders and the public in Macedonia – condemnation of the violence, full support for the Macedonian state, its integrity and government, and insistence on refraining from excessive force in dealing with the rebels and finding a lasting political solution to the pending problems in the inter-ethnic relations in the country. (2) On 12 March Noev paid a brief visit to Skopje and discussed with Macedonian Defense Minister Liuben Paunovsky the situation at the border with Kosovo and the ways the two countries can cooperate in dealing with the dangerous situation.

 

2. Multilateral Relations: Trilateral Cooperation among Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey

A disaster relief exercise of fire brigades from Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey started on 30 March near the southern Bulgarian town of Svilengrad. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov attended the opening ceremony.

 

 

V.  THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND IN THE REGION

 

1. Turkey. Turkey and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have agreed  on a new economic program aimed at reviving the confidence of foreign investors following the financial crisis in February. The IMF has backed the program after talks with representatives of the G-7 and with Turkish Economy Minister Kemal Dervis and is ready to bring forward US$6.25 billion of scheduled loans to Turkey. Dervis has said that he would push on with the economic restructuring, including reforms to the banking sector and faster privatization.

 

2. Bulgaria. (1) The problems created with the non-signing of a re-admission agreement between Bulgaria and the Russian Federation will be overcome for the upcoming tourist season after the Bulgarian authorities decided to preserve the non-visa arrangement for tourists from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia.  This arrangement will remain in effect until 1 October 2001. Traveling with vouchers for pre-paid services will be enough to cross the border, said sources from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on 20 March. (2) The export of electricity from Bulgaria in 2001 will be enlarged and will include Italy as well as Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. (3) Greece will donate €54.3 million to Bulgaria for the realization of Bulgarian projects as part of the Greek plan for reconstructing the Balkans for the period 2001-2005. By May, Bulgaria will sign the framework treaty on the principles of utilizing the funds. The projects will be approved by a bilateral expert commission. The money will be invested in the areas of infrastructure, services and production. The Greek plan provides €51 million for Albania, €46.8 million for Macedonia, €75.5 million for Kosovo, €72.5 million for Romania and €241 million for FRY.

 

 

VI.  THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

 

1. The United States

US-Bulgaria. (1) On 19-20 March FBI Director Louis Freeh visited Sofia and met with the Bulgarian state leaders and with the heads of intelligence and counter-intelligence services of the country. This is the first visit of a US FBI chief to the country. Freeh said Bulgaria is a key strategic partner of the US in the fields of security and economics. The opening of an FBI desk in Sofia has been discussed. Freeh praised the country's stability and the reform in the judicial system and in fighting heavy crimes. Before and after his visit to Bulgaria, he had meetings with US Vice-President Dick Cheney, with the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and with US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. (2) On 29 March in Washington, DC, Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev met with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

 

US-FRY. On 20-21 March Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic visited Washington, DC, and discussed US financial support for his country, if by 31 March former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic is handed over to the ICTY in The Hague.

 

2. NATO

NATO-Bulgaria. (1) The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense disclosed its intentions to create the Active Forces that will include the Rapid Reaction Forces and part of the forces for territorial defense of the country, thus changing the Plan 2004 for the defense reform. (2) The visit of Assistant Secretary-General of NATO on Planning and Defense Edgar Buckley ended on 1 March. Buckley and other experts of NATO and the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense reviewed Bulgaria's preparation for NATO membership. (3) After long and careful negotiations between NATO and Bulgaria, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev signed a memorandum in Brussels on 21 March for providing land, water and airspace transit for NATO troops passing through. The memorandum is limited to five years, can be automatically prolonged and is the first of its kind between NATO and a membership candidate. The memorandum can be enlarged and include new clauses, if negotiated, for stationing NATO troops and bases in Bulgaria. The parliamentary commissions on foreign policy and on national security approved the agreement on 29 March, and it awaits ratification in early April. The memorandum provides for a temporary stationing of troops, armaments, equipment, ships and aircraft in Bulgaria. The permission will require a two-day advance notification and will not require confirmation by the parliament. No taxes will be paid by NATO for using the country's infrastructure, naval facilities, air space and air bases. (4) A delegation of the opposition left coalition visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels on 30 March and confirmed its support for NATO membership and pledged to maintain this support if it wins the elections in June this year.

 

3. EU

EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU agreed on 1 March to lift restrictions on imports from Bosnia and Herzegovina with immediate effect. The decision was approved by the Council of Ministers at the end of February.

 

EU-Bulgaria. (1) After confirming an earlier decision by the EU Council of Home Affairs and Justice Ministers for lifting the visa restrictions for Bulgarians, the EU Parliament passed the issue for finalization on 1 March by the same EU Council. The home and justice ministers confirmed their position on 15 March, and a week later the official newspaper of the EU published the decision. It becomes applicable 20 days later on 10 April. (2) On 22-23 March, European  Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen visited Sofia. He reiterated his position that if Bulgaria preserves its economic and political stability and rate of accession negotiations with the EU, it can successfully complete them by the end of 2004.

 

EU-Turkey. On 27 March Verheugen cautiously welcomed Turkey’s plans to prepare for membership of the EU with a wide range of political and economic reforms. After talks in Brussels with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Verheugen said the package of proposed reforms was an important landmark in Turkey’s preparation for EU membership and the first stage in a far reaching program of political reform. It was, he added, a starting point for the fundamental transformation of Turkey into a modern democracy. However, there is no timetable for abolishing the death penalty in Turkey; neither is a clearer picture emerging of how the state will deal with the ethnic and minority rights issue in the country.

 

EU-FYROM. On 9 April in Luxembourg the EU and Macedonia will sign a Stability and Association Agreement. The EU has demanded as a precondition a change in Macedonia's constitution that will better reflect the concerns and the role of the Albanian minority in public life.

 

4. Russia

Russia-Western Balkans. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Skopje, Pristina, Belgrade and Tirana from 18-24 March in an effort to confirm the key role of the Russian Federation in dealing with the conflicts in this area. He proposed to disarm the Albanian terrorist groups, to increase the activity of both KFOR and of the Yugoslav army, and the signing of a document by the Balkan countries that will oblige them to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the states in the region and not to use force against the neighboring countries.

 

Ivanov's visit took place against the background of an earlier assessment by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was repeated by Ivanov: that in the analogous situation in Chechnya, Russia was forced to use its military power. The public opinion and the government of Bulgaria has observed a lack of consistency in the comparison between Macedonia and Chechnya and considers it wishful thinking: first, the essence of the issue at stake is perceived as a different one; the ethnic tension requires a different approach from that in Chechnya and could be better alleviated through political negotiations, reconciliation and rapprochement in meeting the legitimate concerns of the parties involved. The massive use of military power, characteristic of the Russian pattern of coping with such issues, and a perspective that takes in only the military aspects of the problem is doomed to failure, at least as far as the Balkan region is concerned. Bulgaria’s experience in tolerant treatment and coming to terms with its ethnic minorities, their political and cultural integration in society and state activity proves that this is the right way to solve a complicated historic and social issue. The integration into the European mainstream and into the Euro-Atlantic institutions, when set as priority political objectives, may fundamentally re-motivate the instigators of ethnic hatreds and intolerance, too, or at least marginalize the political leaders of militant trends in the inter-ethnic relationships.

 

Russia-Bulgaria. A spy scandal between the two countries in March led to the expulsion of three Russian diplomats from Bulgaria and to the reciprocal step on the Russian side, which expelled three Bulgarians from the embassy in Moscow.

 

VII.  THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION: CONCLUSIONS

 

The conflict situation in Macedonia, Southern Serbia and Kosovo remains complicated. Any lasting solution can be based only on political negotiations and agreements. The solidarity of the Balkan governments for such a formula of solving the crisis and the catalytic support of the EU and NATO are indispensable in closing the chapter of violent relationships in the Western Balkans. A more intensive implementation of the Stability Pact projects may also prove to be constructive factor to the longer-term solutions of the ethnic animosities in the conflict regions of former Yugoslavia.

 


EDITORIAL STAFF:

CONTACT AND REFERENCE

Dr. Plamen Pantev, Editor–in–Chief

ISSN 1311 – 3240

Dr. Tatiana Houbenova-Delissivkova

Address: ISIS, 1618 Sofia,

Mr. Valeri Rachev, M. A.

P. O. Box 231, Bulgaria

Mr. Ivan Tsvetkov, M. A.

Phone/Fax: ++(359 - 2-) 551 828

Dr. Todor Tagarev

E-Mail Address: isis@cserv.mgu.bg


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